Eagle County journalist a historical detective
August 11, 2010
EAGLE, Colorado – For nearly four decades, local journalist Kathy Heicher has been chronicling the happenings of Eagle. Now she has a whole book to show for it.
This summer, Arcadia Publishing released the latest volume in its “Images of America” series – “Early Eagle” by Heicher and the Eagle County Historical Society. The book traces the community’s history from the late 1880s through 1940, featuring the stories of its pioneers and a treasure trove of historical photographs.
“I always wanted to write a history book but I never had the time before,” Heicher said. “It took me six months, and 38 years, to write this.”
Since she signed on with Arcadia earlier this year, Heicher has logged hundreds of hours at the Eagle Public Library, reading through old newspaper accounts and obituaries and perusing through the library’s historical photo collection.
“I had a hard time at first deciding how to organize the book – by families, business or events. I finally decided it probably made more sense to do it chronologically,” she said.
Her book begins with a chapter titled “The First People – before 1889” with information about the Native Americans who called this valley home long before homesteaders arrived. From there she moved to the settlement of the Brush Creek valley and Eagle’s early mining boom. The Eagle community itself was incorporated in 1905.
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Through her research, Heicher gained an even deeper respect for the people who first settled this valley. “Those people had tremendous courage to come all this way to homestead,” she said. “I wanted people to get a sense of the homesteaders and the miners who played a part in the early days of Eagle.”
She particularly enjoyed researching and writing the stories of Eagle’s pioneer families – people such as the Buchholz clan. “They made quite a mark in Eagle for 100 years,” Heicher said.
While she is listed as the book’s author, Heicher wanted to share that distinction with the Eagle County Historical Society.
“It takes a village to write a book,” said Heicher. Never was that statement more evident then when her computer blew up 10 days before her completion deadline. She lost three days driving back and forth to Steamboat Springs to resolve her issues and ultimately enlisted local resident Jerry Santoro to act as a courier so she could keep writing while her electronic problem got resolved.
Heicher also offered special thanks to local history librarian Jaci Spuhler and to her husband Bill Heicher for their research and proofreading assistance.
With her book now completed, Heicher hopes that local residents who hike up Hockett Gulch or travel along Nogal Road make the connection with their current-day community and the pioneers who preceded them. As for her next project, she isn’t sure what that will be. “I am still recovering,” she said with a laugh.
But if she learned one thing, Heicher said she has become a disciple of urging families to label their photographs in the interests of their descendants.
“I felt like a history detective some of the time,” she said.
Tonight Heicher and Shirley Welch – author of another Arcadia publication titled “The Eagle River Valley” will sign copies of their books during the “Evening at the Museum” event at the Eagle County Historical Museum at Chambers Park in Eagle. The event is from 6 to 9 p.m. and will include live music, historical presentations, cocktails and appetizers. Their books will be offered for sale at the event or at the museum during regular business hours. A portion of the book proceeds go to the historical society when purchased at the museum, but both publications are also offered for sale at area businesses. Visit http://www.eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com to learn more about tonight’s event.